Problems and suggestions for the NHL All-Star selection format...
On the second day of 2019, the NHL released the preliminary rosters for the 2019 All-Star Game, taking place in San Jose. While all star choices cause uproar every year, the selection committee exposed the significant drawbacks to the current system. For some context, the current selection system requires a minimum of two defencemen, two goalies, and six forwards per division. Furthermore, each team must have a representative. This issue of mandatory representation has befuddled fans in the past, and has reared its ugly head again.
While every division had questionable picks, the Atlantic Division stood well above the rest in this category. Looking at the list of snubs, it’s arguably assembled a better lineup than the roster that was actually picked, with stars like Point, Barkov, Domi, Larkin, Marner, Marchand, Reilly, Vasilevskiy, and Andersen not making the cut.
Issues with the selection format, looking at this list of snubs, begins with the positional requirements. Barkov this season is far and away the front-runner to win the Selke, and is the driving force behind the Panthers’ offence. His elite vision and playmaking abilities, coupled with his astute defence and penalty differential, make him the standout all star for this Florida team. Yet, the NHL selection committee decided on… Keith Yandle. Keith. Yandle. All joking aside, the veteran defenceman is having a fantastic bounce back season. While a large part of this is attributed to his monopoly over the Panthers’ quarterback position on the powerplay, it is still impressive. But this should not – nay, cannot – supplant Barkov as the All-Star representative from Sunrise (well I guess it can, because it did).
Florida was no exception. While Carey Price will forever be immortalized for his Hart-Vezina season, his selection as the Montreal representative is absurd. Simply put: Max Domi has been a monster since arriving in La Belle Province. Averaging almost a point per game, he has been the heart of this Canadiens offence. He has reinvigorated a bored Habs fan base, and may have single-handedly saved his contentious GM, Marc Bergevin, from the proverbial hotseat. Price, meanwhile, has been barely passable as a starting goaltender. Struggling to rediscover his form following a slew of injuries, his selection to the all star team is an injustice to the incredible season Domi is currently enjoying.
To conclude the pitiful selections in the Atlantic division is Jimmy Howard. While his stats have been fine this season, they do not scream ALL-STAR in any way, shape, or form. Meanwhile, Dylan Larkin continues to be the only real player on this Detroit team, even stringing together one of the longest point streaks of the season. He was the no-brainer option here, and the NHL still messed it up. Unbeliev-… actually pretty believable.
Now that we’ve outlined some of the issues with the positional mandate with All-Star selections, lets go over the problems with mandatory representation.
Here’s a question: which one of the two defencemen leading their positional scoring (and the midseason Norris vote) did not make the all star team: Mark Giordano or Morgan Rielly? Trick question – neither. SOMEHOW, SOME WAY, ARGUABLY THE TWO BEST DEFENCEMEN THIS SEASON ARE NOT ALL-STARS. FULL *BLEEPING* STOP. While the defensive positions in the Pacific are respectable (Burns, Karlsson, and Doughty), other roster spots are being taken up by players who have not had nearly the season Giordano has, such as Clayton Keller. While he is a very good player who is having fine season, this illuminates the issues with mandatory representation for each team. And not to pick on this guy too much, but Yandle over Rielly? Really? It is the All-Star game. It should contain all stars. All-Stars being the best players of any given season.
While we’ve seen players time and again opt out of All-Star weekend, instead taking a one game suspension to gain the extra rest, All-Star selections are still important. It is a legitimizing factor to many productive seasons, factors that will be sorely missed in the year-end review for all of Barkov, Domi, Larkin, Rielly and Giordano. Furthermore, many first time selections (including both Domi and Rielly) revel in the opportunity to participate in the festivities. These have been taken away from players experiencing incredible seasons.
Changes need to be made. Expand the number of selections, abandon positional requirements and/or mandatory team representatives, whatever it takes to rectify this pitiful process. Overhaul the whole process. Do something to properly recognize all star calibre seasons.
… Also less outdoor games.